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Using δ13C of Levoglucosan As a Chemical Clock

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journal contribution
posted on 31.08.2018, 00:00 by I. Gensch, X. F. Sang-Arlt, W. Laumer, C. Y. Chan, G. Engling, J. Rudolph, A. Kiendler-Scharr
Compound specific carbon isotopic measurements (δ13C) of levoglucosan were carried out for ambient aerosol sampled during an intensive biomass burning period at different sites in Guangdong province, China. The δ13C of ambient levoglucosan was found to be noticeably heavier than the average δ13C of levoglucosan found in source C3-plant-combustion samples. To estimate the photochemical age of sampled ambient levoglucosan, back trajectory analyses were done. The origin and pathways of the probed air masses were determined, using the Lagrangian-particle-dispersion-model FLEXPART and ECMWF meteorological data. On the other hand, the isotopic hydrocarbon clock concept was applied to relate the changes in the field-measured stable carbon isotopic composition to the extent of chemical processing during transport. Comparison of the photochemical age derived using these two independent approaches shows on average good agreement, despite a substantial scatter of the individual data pairs. These analyses demonstrate that the degree of oxidative aging of particulate levoglucosan can be quantified by combining laboratory KIE studies, observed δ13C at the source and in the field, as well as back trajectory analyses. In this study, the chemical loss of levoglucosan was found to exceed 50% in one-fifth of the analyzed samples. Consequently, the use of levoglucosan as a stable molecular tracer may underestimate the contribution of biomass burning to air pollution.